International air arrivals and departures are up sharply at the airports in Quito and Guayaquil and officials say they expect the trend to continue. At Quito’s Mariscal Sucre Airport, the number of arriving passengers has increased from 7,473 to 32,477 from June to October and arrivals could exceed 50,000 in December.
“We are coming back but still have a long way to go to reach pre-coronavirus levels,” says Luis Galárraga, Quito airport spokesman. He adds that bookings in and out of Ecuador have not been affected by the recent surge of Covid-19 cases in the United States and the European Union. “The airlines tell us that that the demand from overseas Ecuadorians coming home for the holidays is very strong.”
The story is much the same at Guayqauil’s José Joaquín Olmedo Airport, where the number of arriving flights reached 74 in November, up from 32 in August. “Our international flights have are now at 40 percent of what they were in January, before the pandemic,” says airport manager Ángel Córdova. “We expect the volume increase to continue.”
Ecuador’s Civil Aviation reports that in-country flights are also increasing, up more than 200 percent since all airports reopened in June. Cuenca has shown the strongest gain, from three flights a week to 14.
The Quito and Guayaquil airports are maintaining their biosecurity requirements established by the Ministry of Health for international arriving passengers. Arrivals must show a negative Covid-19 test result obtained within 10 days of the flight or face a 10-day quarantine following arrival. According to the ministry, 80 percent of arriving passengers show test results. Ecuador residents without a negative test result are allowed to quarantine at home while non-residents must quarantine in a designated hotel.
Ministry of Health and airport officials say they believe new international flying rules will be instituted once Covid-19 vaccines are widely available. “Discussions are already underway worldwide with airports and airlines about a proof of vaccine requirement,” says health ministry doctor Carlos Quinde. “We do not know exactly when the rule will go into effect but believe it will begin toward the end of 2021.”
Quinde, who is assigned to the national airport biosecurity office, said there will be one requirement for all airlines and all international airports. “Some airlines have already announced they will require proof of the vaccine but, when the rules are announced, they will be uniform throughout the industry. The airlines, airports and national health ministries have agreed to a unified approach with the World Health Organization developing the plan. There would chaos in the travel indsutry without a single approach.”
He adds: “Although everyone agrees with the requirement we do not know yet whether there will be physical document, a digital record or both for passengers. We should know by March or April of next year.”
Yet to be determined, Quinde said, is if the vaccine requirement will apply to national flights.